World Record Auction Price for Australia’s First Coin - the “Hannibal Head” Holey Dollar

World Record Auction Price for Australia’s First Coin - the “Hannibal Head” Holey Dollar
Holey Dollar, created in 1813 from an 1810 Ferdinand VII Spanish Silver Dollar that had been minted at the Lima Mint in Peru.
(Image courtesy coinworks)

Melbourne based coin dealers Coinworks sold a fine example of Australia’s first coin, known as the “Hannibal Head” Holey Dollar, for $410,000 at auction on Monday night at their Eminent Colonials auction.

Re-appearing on the market after twenty four years away from the spotlight, the re-emergence of this rare coin caused quite a stir in the coin collecting world.

 

Provenance played a key part in the success of the Holey Dollar, the most famous example of Australia’s very first coin. Discovered in Tasmania in 1881 near Hobart, in what was believed to be a bushranger's hoard, the "Hannibal Head" Holey Dollar was subsequently presented to Sir John Henry Lefroy, Governor of Van Diemen's Land 1880 – 1881.

 “It would be impossible to find a more celebrated example of Australia’s first colonial coin, the 1810 Hannibal Head Holey Dollar, offered as lot 1,” said Coinworks managing director Belinda Downie.

Created in 1813 from an 1810 Ferdinand VII Spanish Silver Dollar that had been minted at the Lima Mint in Peru, the Holey Dollar was offered for sale for the first time ever, and is the only "Hannibal Head" Holey Dollar available to buyers with the only other known example having been bequeathed to the State Library of New South Wales by Sir William Dixson.

An extract from the Sydney Morning Herald dated January 7th 1884 said regarding the hole in the coin that: “This was affected by punching out a circular disc from the centre, which passed for one shilling and threepence, and boldly stamping ‘five shillings’ on the annular portion left.

Also selling for a world record price was the finest example of the 1852 Adelaide Pound ever to be offered at auction. Offered as Lot 2 of the Eminent Colonials auction, the coin sold for $370,000 blitzing the previous auction record of $130,000 which was achieved in New York with the Eliasberg Adelaide Pound.

Lot 3, the Colonial Dump sold for $100,000. As the third in line, after the Holey Dollar and the Adelaide Pound, the Dump fell short in engaging the bidding audience. And while the price was a fair way below estimate, the subdued result does not denigrate the piece but affirms the potential of auctions to unleash a bargain.

“The Eminent Colonials Auction was a win-win. The buyers were ecstatic, the vendors were happy - and truly beautiful quality coins sold for very exciting prices,” Ms Downie said.

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